Get Started in Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses With This 101 Guide

There’s no denying that social media is a fantastic marketing tool. With the right digital marketing strategy and approach, businesses can successfully reach their audience with little cost. Some companies have even grown and built entire empires through social media alone. 

But attention is limited. Reaching your customers gets more challenging every day as more and more businesses are taking advantage of the powers of social media marketing. A new business starting out today has an uphill battle to fight to cut through the noise and find its followers. 

That doesn’t mean small businesses should give up before they even start. With social media marketing best practices, some great content, and a little bit of luck, any business can find itself grasping a significant slice of its industry’s market share. 

Social media marketing is both simple and complex. You could spend four years at a university studying marketing and still have something to learn the day after graduation. However, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way as well. So, in this guide, we’ll help you get up to speed on social media marketing 101 and help you understand how small businesses can succeed in 2022. 

What is social media marketing & how is it different from traditional marketing?

At its most basic level, social media marketing is when you use various social media platforms to promote and sell your products, services, and brand. 

You can use these platforms to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, generate leads, and build customer loyalty. But social media is much more personal than your website and traditional marketing channels. You’re having an ongoing conversation with your customers. They get to know your company on a more human level. In turn, they grow to trust you and communicate back, often giving you valuable feedback.

Instead of buying a giant billboard and announcing your business to the world, you’re sharing daily slices of life about your business. Social media is dynamic, fast-paced, and engaging. With it, your business can potentially reach millions of customers worldwide or build a small and loyal following closer to home. 

The best way to think of the difference between social media marketing and traditional marketing practices is to think of them as ongoing and developing. You don’t launch a campaign and wait for the results. You nurture and continue campaigns, studying and analyzing real-time data and feedback from your customers. 

How to get started

Start with a plan. 

Sounds simple, right? But you’d be amazed how many businesses don’t formalize a social media plan. They view it like their personal Facebook account and just randomly post when the mood strikes. 

An established social media marketing plan helps guide your activity. With a plan in place, you can test and monitor your accounts and tweak them as necessary. 

To start a plan, set your goals. Why do you want a social media presence, and what do you hope to accomplish? Try to set realistic goals in the beginning. How many followers would you like, or how much interaction would you like your followers to have? 

Then, define your target audience. Research competitors in your and other markets. Set clear post objectives and how you will engage with your target audience. 

Really think about which platforms work best for your business. For example, B2B businesses love LinkedIn. Younger brands require TikTok or Instagram. 

Next, set a budget for your social media marketing. You can do most of your posts for free, of course. But you’ll want to set aside funds for better photos, writing, or even contests. Lastly, create a clear content calendar and get started posting. 

Build a Community 

One of the most powerful aspects of social media marketing is the community you can build around your brand. When you play your cards right, you end up with a devoted, loyal group of followers who will do much of your word-of-mouth marketing for you. 

Your goal should not be to simply secure more followers. It’s nice to have high numbers to show off, but it’s even better to have a smaller group of super-active followers. Treat your customers too much like random strangers or take them for granted, and they will quickly unfollow you and head to your competition. 

Your community should always feel valued by your business. You want a genuine connection with your customers. Don’t just make them feel marketed to. Have you ever had a friend that’s just always trying to sell you on some scheme or new thing? You probably don’t want to hang out with them much, do you? 

Communicate With Your Followers

Never forget that the most successful social media accounts are two-way streets. Communication with your audience is one of the most powerful aspects of social media and why it’s such a revolutionary marketing tool. 

Make yourself available to talk with your followers. Maybe that’s through Facebook messaging or Instagram direct messaging. But be available. Host discussions in group sessions or community “round tables.” 

You want to hear their valuable thoughts and opinions because you care about your customers, but it will also help endear your business to them. 

Remember always, if someone has a problem, respond promptly and let them know their feedback matters. Pro tip: acknowledge the complaint publicly but move the discussion offline and away from everyone else. This is in case things turn ugly. You do NOT want your followers to see a public falling out. Community members can turn against brands quickly. 

Build Bonds with Brand Influencers

Brand influencers can make or break a small business. 

You might think that your product or industry is too niche to have “influencers.” But you’d be wrong. Influencers exist in virtually every sphere. They’re the power users that other users respect and listen to, and without them, your brand will struggle to gain traction. 

First, you have to find them. Start researching if you don’t know the influencers in your niche or industry. Then engage with them. Comment on their posts, ask questions, etc. You want to add value to their brand, so they’ll feel happy to do the same for yours. Don’t just message them demanding some sort of boost because you’re in their industry. Remember, you need them more than they probably need you. 

Publish Consistently

To have a following, you need consistency. You can’t expect to post something randomly when the mood strikes and hope your followers stick around to wait for the next post. Also, when you post haphazardly, you have no way to measure and test what you’re doing. 

But, by posting at a time you know your audience engages with you (say, every week on Monday at 5 pm), you can try different post styles and better measure the results. You’ll know whether the new post style was successful or not with the other factors eliminated. 

As you build up your post count and consistency, it’s easier for new followers to discover and stay with you. Then, you can become a reliable source of information for your industry. 

Remember two caveats to this, though. Post meaningful content. You don’t want to push out 20 fluff pieces with little value to your readers. That will only serve to push your followers away. You also don’t want to start something you can’t continue. If you feel like you’ll struggle to maintain 3 posts a day, then start with one. Consistency and quality are the keys to success in social media. 

Create Shareable Content

This one is a bit harder to quantify and plan for, but it’s essential nonetheless. 

One of the powers of social media marketing is your ability to turn your customers into brand ambassadors. Sure, you can push out your own content, but leveraging your social media followers to push your content for you is even better. Their friends and family are likelier to listen to something that comes from them than a company they’ve never heard of. 

You can help this along by making shareable content. This means creating content that isn’t solely about your brand or business. Think content that’s generally useful to everyone. If you sell a cleaning product, make a guide on how to clean the most common stains (with scant mentions of your product). Or make a fun infographic or visual guide. 

Another helpful post style that gets shared regularly is interactive posts. Think polls, contests, giveaways, etc. People love sharing their opinion and letting people know how clever they are. Make fun quizzes with shareable results. Readers love to share their results with friends, who, in turn, will take and share the quiz themselves.  

Knowing what your target audience will want to share can be challenging. But study your data and watch for trends. “Oh, they love when I share helpful videos.” Then, go make more helpful videos!

Analyze and Review Your Data

Unlike traditional marketing, virtually everything you do on social media platforms is measured and analyzed somehow. These things are data-generating powerhouses. If you’re not regularly examining and scrutinizing your data, you’re not doing social media marketing right. 

You never have to guess at what’s working. The numbers are there clearly for you to see. But you’ll need to define your expectations. Are you happy with simple likes? If so, getting posts out in front of people is all you need to do. But if you want increased engagement and customers talking back through the comments, then you’ll need to study which posts get people talking. 

Dig into the backend of your business social media accounts. There you can see all your user data like age, posts getting the most engagement, and more. You can see the time of day they will most likely interact with your brand. Maybe your target audience really loves posts on Sundays at 5:40?

As you study the data, don’t get too locked into things. Yes, you want to trust the numbers. But just because this kind of post got this engagement this week doesn’t mean a different post won’t on another. Study and test your posts to find new growth as well. 

Your Work is Just Beginning!

Remember, unlike traditional marketing, posting something on social media is just the beginning. You must always think of social media marketing as an ongoing process. Once you post, there’s feedback to manage, comments to respond to, and data to analyze. 

Your website SEO and social media marketing strategy can and should shift and develop as you gather more followers and data. 

Embrace the data and your community. Study the best practices and helpful tips, but don’t be afraid to bend or break the rules if you think it’s right. Like we said in the beginning, there’s always something new to learn. It’s a full-time job just to stay on top of all the changes to algorithms and new platforms. 

But don’t let all this scare you off. Social media is a powerful marketing tool for small businesses that can push them to the next level. You can’t neglect it. It’s out there, and customers expect companies to have accounts. If you don’t, it’s almost guaranteed your competitors will. 

If you don’t feel like you can handle it on your own or you don’t have the time, please reach out to us. We love helping small businesses with their online digital marketing strategy needs. Contact us, and we’ll be glad to help in any way we can!

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